Sunday, October 10, 2010

JAMBO today...happy Thanksgiving Day to Canada!! If i weren't here i would be up at our cottage on Lake of Bays...tonight preparing the roast turkey, the dressing fried up with onions, celery, poultry seasonings, thyme, sage and others...carrots chopped into little bits ooozing with melted butter in the big old wrought iron frying pan my dad once used....mixed with stale chunks of brown bread...amidst the laughter and craziness of kids and grandkids, Pyper and Finn racing at top speed through the old kitchen, little Eve toddling behind...Sierra stirring the gravy, oh i miss you all so much!
Back in Sunday, a day of the pool at the Twiga tourist campsite i talk with safari goers from all over the world about our little orphanage that grew and grew, just down the road from the campsite. so often they plead to come with us, to show us something real of Africa, a great way to meet people - to raise interest and maybe funding...
Yesterday our big meeting with our staff at Majengo,with us at ICA...we'd just come back from the market buying 29 pairs of shoes and green, blue and yellow sweaters to match the colours of the Tanzanian flag...
We start by doing a go around with the cooks, cleaners, night watchman, secretary, teachers and the treasurer, so everyone knows what everyone else is doing - the details, which i am told doesn't happen ever..usually the higher up sec and treas keep the info to themselves but here we are trying to do something different, to keep the transperancy (sp?) and corruption down. This is partly for my notes, but also for anyone out there interested in the meanderings both positive and problematic the day to day of orphanage running: basically, everything is fine, the 15 new kids we brought in last April have settled in and adjusting well. At first they cried at the site of new children and adults to deal with, hid, ran away...but now are making friends. Big problem is that they arrive in the morning filthy and need to be showered down, and then back into dirty clothing, which makes them feel inferior to the kids living in the orphanage. We agree to send them home with a month's supply of laundry soap, oil, toothbrush and paste...and reiterate that our budget holds that we can buy uniforms for all the kids, not just our 28 living in.

Martha the treasurer took the older kids to a Masai village to get a sense of how the people live from different cultures so close to the orphanage..this was a great success; she bought lunches out of her own pocket and hopes that we can add to the budget Field Trips in the future. Witness the head cleaner complained that there was no locked up place in the whole orphanage for their cleaning supplies: brooms, mops, cleaners, etc. I suggested our locked pantry where we keep the dry foods, but learned the govt inspectors would see this as an infrigement...the two showers and toilets we built outside have never worked well, the owner will have to look into this, so we decided to put a locked door on one of the shower stalls for the cleaning stuff. Done.
I suggest that some of the Masai girls we have been sponsoring through Secondary school could offer us some weeks of free volunteering once they finish their exams.. the concept of giving back....all agreed.
Our two cooks would like us to add four big hot pots to their keep rice and ugali, etc warm..with such a number of kids, they start cooking dinner at 3 in the afternoon, stone cold by dinner. The pots are $150 US maybe one will do, for starters....
The new watchman needs mosquito lotion and army boots.
He has had two incidents since April: one a guy was caught peeking through the windows of our matron's bedroom in the middle of the night, and two, some guy got into the indoor kitchen area and stole his warm jacket, running across the field after him, the thief dropped the jacket, so all is well.
Grayson the teacher would like tricycles for the younger kids. He said they have trouble walking all the way to primary school, could we provide transportation..that means a car. Not likely i think, not now, anyway with our budget on the rise...
Shelves..the kids get into the shelves in the classroom, and when the teachers arrive in the morning they are in shambles...books, papers, crayons, chalk, spilling out all over the floor..need doors and a lock...i suggest it is good for kids to have access to books, but they assure me that in Africa kids read on schedule...i still think our books could be out in the open for some quiet kid to read..but...hey, this is their custom...
Killo our sec needs an office...he is embarassed to greet govt people in a room filled with children and food! They want our bougainvillea fence to include thorns, and a gate with a prevent older kids from running in and out, they don't now but they worry about the future...Water...often the community water is shut off. they are stuck with 28 + kids with no bathing, etc..they want a 2,000 litre tank dug into the back for auxiliary needs. Toilet needs fixing. Prefer hole in the ground to Western toilet...can we change it. All 6 solar lights no longer work. Can we invest in a big solar panel for the roof? $300. Can someone research installation, etc.
Chairs, the plastic ones we bought last year were demolished by exuberent kids...we need 5 wooden chairs. I suggest a sofa for the living space, to relax in..but they say the kids will slice open the cushions with razor blades!! Horrified i ask, where they get these? The school gives them out as pencil sharpeners, they stick them in their pockets, so often the cleaners find them there while washing clothes....Can we bring over 5 good pencil sharpeners for the school? the kind you screw onto the wall?
Sheets, towels. threadbaren...or with holes...clothes fades and ragged. desperately need clothing for older kids, aged 6-12....
and finally the English teacher we hired part time is too busy with her school..they are looking for a replacement...
three hours later, sitting on wooden benches - it was a great meeting...not so much to do...just these odds and ends...and things will settle in till we get back in Feb/March...
Friday we had the first two presentations of the loans given to the first two of four PLWHAs groups. I described this process of VICOBAS..small banks, much like the micro financing projects, but these are groups of people living with HIV AIDS..who have formed together to make four groups, each person buying up to 3 shares, pooling their money, and lending it out at 10% to each other or someone outside the group. the group monitoring the lending and savings. Well, we added seed money donated by my uncle David Pretty, thank you David!! he is a wonderful man of 85 years, was the president of North American Life INsurance in his days, has never married, without kids, and is now bequeathing his money to very worthwhile causes. He agreed that we could use $9,000. US to loan without interest these groups, for a six month period. The presentation was exciting!!
They have gone through a three day intensive workshop on everything about small businesses, the running of them, saving, the books, receipts, etc...lending... and are very smart and savvy now....very serious..and with full intentions to pay back the money in 6 months.
My only problem is getting it out. The one ATM in Tanzania that i have located which will accept my debit card is on the blink now, since Thursday...and i am unable to withdraw money, even for my own use! Nightmare. Where once at least i was able to catch a bus and race to the mobile bank in various towns, it is no use, so we wait!
and wait! African people have unlimited amounts of patience - compared to me anyway. I awaken yesterday to no bank, and no water in my little hostel. So you dole out a handful from your precious bottled water supply, add soap and do bare minimal washing. That for the day. Hot, dusty, but so busy now, no time for worrying about these small things. By nightfall it comes back somehow, with miracles.

At the presentation of the money Friday, each person stood up and spoke of their small businesses: bananas and vegetable growing...chickens and eggs, farming, welding, small shops, retailing clothing, etc. by small fires at the side of the road chipatis,roasted buns, breakfast foods...anything to make a few shillings to feed their families..With this loan, they dream of expanding these businesses, making more money, each and every one of them, mostly women, only 12 men in the total of 90, they hope to raise enough to educate each one of their kids, maybe build a small home someday.

we counted the number of kids dependent on this group..well over 150....and this was with just the first two groups...the numbers of kids will be over 300 when we finish next week with the last two groups' presentations...if i ever get the chance to withdraw what we have promised!

that's about it. last night at the Double M a big dance show...with mostly guys prancing and dancing, and being wonderful, huge crowds, lots of laughter and fun.
Have a great Canada...and to everyone else...
Bidai...see you later!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

JAMBO!! Thursday afternoon, hour up the hill from Mto Wa Mbu, passing two huge transport truck rollovers lying on the side of the road - we have a very good driver in Hamidu...pole pole..slowly slowly....I AM PRETTY ecstatic at the moment _ having tried four other computers at the internet cafe which didn"t connect either to this blogsite or to my sympatico mail>>>this was the last chance> the others have gone to the market to buy 28 pairs of shoes, uniforms and clothing for the 28 kids we have living in Majengo. Of course i can't go, being a white mazunga, the price would gallop like a Masai cow racing down the road less traveled. Am a bit speedy, just to give you a sense of my day so far, woken up by Muslim Call to Prayer at 4:30, seemed to go on all night with the loud speakers shouting out wakening the followers, get up get out of bed, you can lie down forever when you die but right now on your knees...on and on they go, with dark shadows struggling from warm blankets across blackened dirt roads filled with pot holes of water from last night's rain to the Mosque on the main street of town. Ah 4 30...some meditating - my mind racing with the work we are doing here, off and running from the moment my plane set down last Friday afternoon.
My daughter says this blog reads like someone high on LSD, but i can assure you it is from lack of sleep that i speed. Money, and lack thereof. I am in the middle of a big project which requires Tanzanian shillings, lots of them. My debit card, which only worked in one ATM bank last year in the whole of Tanzania it seems...does not work there this year. Instead, and i count my lucky stars, it works in the only traveling mobile bank in the entire district. I climbed all the way up the hill on Monday to this town to discover it gone somewhere smart, and learned the schedule, so most days we spend driving around after this bank, hoping for it to be where it is supposed to be. But this morning, up here in Kiratu, to my dismay, the ATM was out of order. Man..the frustration. And then these computers, but right now at this very moment, my day is going wonderfully well.
\Back in March i read a book on micro financing and became obsessed about putting this incredible concept to work, somewhere in our little village of Wa mbu...Sure enough the opportunity arose with 80 or so mostly women living with HIV AIDS virus who meet in our office weekly....ah ha!! this is the group!! Briefly, we gave them a three day intensive workshop on all forms of small business recording, saving, receipts, locations, clients, and especially all the information around the concept of micro financing: where people who have no collatoral at all can borrow small amounts of money, and pay back weekly, with interest during a period of 6 months.
I knew very little about this concept, after interview each person about their family and health history, dependents, and their small business work: banana selling on the road, chicken raising, egg selling, farming, irrigation, agriculture, retail clothing, etc...we had a pretty good idea of what each person would like to borrow. But had no idea how to do this, how to monitor a project of this magnitude.
OUR STaff at ICA were excited about the project< but it would be a huge undertaking for them< administration wise>
bACK IN Canada after meetings with the head of PLAN CANADA, and many other very well experienced people...and a three day conference on sustainable responsible investment with financial planners, bankers, etc...i learned that for my purposes micro financing would not be a path i could choose. The interest rates demanded by micro finance institutions tend to be very high, and my group of HIV AIDS survivors were very limited in their funds.
Incredibly i learned about VSLAs, from a great guy i met along the way, Village Saving and loan associations..where the groups themselves set themselves up by buying a small amount of shares and pooling their resources, lending the amount out with a 10% INTEREST rate to either members or people on the outside< where they monitor the loans themselves>

BACK IN Mto Wa MBU last saturday morning at a very exciting meeting with the three heads of each of the four groups..after explaining my choice of not going the micro finance route, they explained the details about their VICOBA'S...small banks...much like the above mentioned VSLAs...but in this case, with people so marginalized by the HIV AIDS disease and unable to invest even a small amount, we decided that i would offer them seed money to assist them on their way. My dear uncle, David had given me a portion of the money he had from selling his cottage last year, allowing me the ability to invest in these four groups.
WE asked them how much they needed, so it was their decision as to how much they would borrow. Not ours. \each group is divided into small groups of 5 people who monitor and are responsible for each other. The main group meets weekly, with a rep from our ICA tally up the weekly loans and credit. In 6 months they are required to pay back the entire loan without interest.
HENCE WHY i have been trailing the mobile bank daily desperately trying to withdraw the money i have promised them!
They drew straws as to which group would get their loan first. Today i managed to collect enough to assist two of the four groups, with formal presentations scheduled this week, contracts to sign in front of government officials, etc...soda and a big hurrah African style to celebrate.

And Majengo, each day running all the way over there. To spend time with the kids. Teaching English, singing, drawing, writing...dancing....Today, after they collect the 28 pairs of shoes and clothing, footballs and exercise books, pens, pencils, etc....our first orphanage staff meeting with our two cooks, cleaners, teachers, secretary and treasurer to discover together the successes and pitfalls of the last six months....yesterday leaving the office two boys outside, one sobbing into soaked fingers, the other tattle taleing with a story that this boy had run away from home the night before after being beaten by his father, who was drunk and displeased with something he did or didn't do. We brought him back into the office, with a role of TP he blurted out his story< had indeed run away and slept on a nearby porch without the cover of blankets alone overnight. He is ten years old. He is afraid to go home, his 4 brothers and 2 older sisters have all either run away or left to escape the rath of the father. Starving, we bought him some chipatis and a couple of bananas from the women on the side of the road, and headed over to Majengo orphanage where we were scheduled for a meeting> I am sure this boy had no idea what was happening to him. Our cooks cut up some mango and made him tea. Filippe one of my favourite kids with wide ears and a huge toothy grin took him under hand for an adventure with the other kids, by the end of an hour he was laughing and smiling, playing on the swings. |We took him then over to spend the night with a grandmother relative of his, but discovered that by daybreak he had run away from her home, head tailing it down the road, exclaiming to one of our orphanage staff that he would be back soon.

And so it goes.

Election in three weeks in Tanzania, the streets are filled with green and white placards, megaphones on trucks, people dancing and singing in the is likely that the reigning party will get back in, but the opposition is strong, great arguements and discussions abound.
I have discovered another meal for me, a huge change from the rice, beans, greens and tomatoe sauce i ate every day for two months last year, lunch and dinner. The other night i came across MIrium who owns the Mi Casa restaurant soaking a sort of bun into a small bowl of delicious vegetable soup! You have no idea how excited you can get for a change of taste, and this one is delicious!!

this computer>>>>ALL SET to go back and edit what my fingers have flown through, only to discover that i can't put the curser into the middle, end or beginning of a sentence without deleting the entire paragraph!

We have no idea back home our technology, the ease with which our expectations glide across known terrain...while here it is a celebration to barely connect with the internet!
time..running to finish without DELETE!!
have a great day...thinking of you all..missing those great kids of mine and my grandkids on this your Thanksgiving weekend...such a long way from home...have a wonderful one!

Monday, October 04, 2010

I am back in Africa!! Arrived last Friday...grueling...Toronto, Washington, Rome (for an hour on the runway!!), Ethiopia, Nairobi and \kilimanjaro!! HOme!!
Decided to come over...with three days notice...Charles is leaving for Wales Monday, well he left today, but we had three great days working out logistics, meetings... it is incredible to be back...but will miss him dearly..

Visited Majengo on day one, half dead, but so happy to see the kids...they seem taller!! Happier, more alive, with it...or maybe it is because we have gotten to know each other a little better, the trust woven through the tapestry, now of what has become their lives...things running smoothly here...

Setting up four Village Saving loan Associations too...instead of the hugely high interest rated micro it! Will describe it all fully next time...running late on my internet....
Miss you all out there!!